Geneva, March 1 (Reuters): In a global bid to quit a habit that kills almost five million people a year, nearly 170 countries backed today a tough pact against smoking, including advertising bans and pledges to boost tobacco taxes.
The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the world’s first international treaty on health, was concluded after a marathon 18-hour final session at the end of two weeks of hard bargaining by World Health Organisation (WHO) member states.
However, the US and Germany, two of 171 countries attending the talks, said they could not accept parts of the deal, although they cannot stop it being endorsed by WHO’s annual assembly in May. The pact seeks to tackle the “devastating” consequences of tobacco use and exposure to smoke with measures ranging from a halt to advertising and sponsorship within five years to a crackdown on smuggling and a ban on cigarette sales to minors.
“The spread of the tobacco epidemic is a global problem with serious consequences for public health that calls for... an effective, appropriate and comprehensive international response,” the treaty declared.
Many of the pact’s policies are already applied in rich countries, but for much of the developing world, where deaths from tobacco-related disease are set to surge, it marks the first attempt to fight what WHO says is already the biggest cause of premature death.
“The convention we have agreed on is a real milestone in the history of global public health,” said Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, WHO director-general and former Norwegian premier.
“Due to the actions that will follow...millions and millions of lives will be saved,” she said in a statement.
According to the UN health agency, the number of people dying each year from cancer, cardiovascular disease and other conditions linked to smoking has jumped to 4.9 million a year from four million when talks on the treaty were first launched in 1999.
By 2020, the figure could stand at over 10 million, with some 70 percent of the victims living in developing countries.